Once you get here, what to do? That depends on your interests, your budget and how much time you have.
Typical Tourist Stuff
1. A good place to start is by using a good guide. Online, the official guide is NYC Go. It will have the up-to-date information you will need once you get here, even if you planned your itinerary prior.
2. When you arrive, look for the Official NYC Guide. It always helps to have a physical guidebook and it is free. If you buy any other guidebook, buy it digitally and download it to your tablet or phone. Honestly, this guide is about all you need for the most popular sites. But, if you want to see off the beaten path stuff, we'll give you that, too (follow our blog and our social media sites).
3. Try to buy all tickets as soon as you can (as of this writing, most locations require a reservation due to health and safety concerns). There are two companies that provide New York City passes that combine several sites in one ticket. Both of them have similar names. City Pass is endorsed by NYC Go. The other company is New York Pass. The company that sells the New York Sightseeing Pass also serves other cities.
4. Whichever company you use make sure you: a) read everything about payment. Usually there are no refunds. b) have a plan to see everything included in the pass or you won't save much money at all. There are different versions of the passes. c) take a screen shot of everything in case the download or email does not come through. If you can, print out the confirmations before you leave home.
5. If you don't have much time (and you will never be able to fully experience everything, anyway), consider either one of the double decker bus tours or do your own. Figure out what sights to see (tour) and what to experience (go in). You can honestly say you saw the Empire State Building without going to the top. Ditto for the Top of the Rock in Rockefeller Center. Save those for the next trip.
Here are my top picks for a first timer:
1. Tour the Battery and Lower Manhattan. Try to tour the Statue of Liberty, (more Statue of Liberty info); Federal Hall and the 911 Memorial. Know that only Statue Cruises is authorized can sell you tickets to the ferry for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We strongly advise you to purchase directly from them. If you have a tour guide, make sure you can verify they are purchasing from them as well.
2. Midtown: See Times Square but then head over to the area between East and West 42- 50th Streets between 5th and 6th Avenues. You'll see Bryant Park (5th and 6th Aves, 42nd Street) and Rockefeller Center 5th and 6th Aves, 47-50 Streets). Tip: The East Side ends at 5th Avenue. Bryant Park and Rockefeller Center area straddle 5th and 6th Avenues, so they are located on the East and West Sides.
3. Take a trip uptown to Harlem and/or Washington Heights. A NYC well-known "secret": the so-called Southern classic chicken and waffles actually originated in NYC! There are tours for Harlem as well as classic church visits.
4. Want to do something for free and see more than one borough? Walk across the Brooklyn or Williamsburg Bridges to Brooklyn or the Ed Koch (59th Street) Bridge to Queens. Even more adventurous? Ride a bicycle instead and see even more of the other boroughs.
5. If you can only do one museums, try the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It has modern art and some nature also, a combo of the other more specialized museums. Every museum is worthy of a visit, though.
1. The ferry is fun to take (and currently, free) but unless you have firm plans to see something there, you'll be just taking a round trip across the Upper Bay. But, to the right as you exit, there is the Staten Island September 11 Memorial waterfront park. Brooklyn and Queens residents were able to witness the tragedy also, but Staten Island seemed closer with a front row seat. All three boroughs felt helplessness as they watched the towers fall and the area be destroyed. (There are other memorial parks throughout the city).
2. Having said that, Historic Richmond Town, though small, is a charming and quaint area of 17th century houses and buildings. You do expect the founding fathers to walk down the street. Check the website to see if the buildings are open. Some activities may be happening outside of the buildings.
1. If it is your first time, then the Bronx Zoo, of course and the New York Botanical Garden. Both attractions should be done separately, since they can take a day each, but since they are located near each other, many people try to visit them on the same outing.
2. If you like to hang with the locals, hit up City Island, a nautical eating experience for all things seafood. For an even more local experience, try Orchard beach.
3. If available, a visit to the New York Yankees is always a great outing. Even those not interested in baseball will appreciate Monument Park and the museum.
4. Many people don't realize that the Bronx is actually on the mainland USA, rather than on a island like the other 4 boroughs. It starts to resemble upstate NY with the hills and slopes. Van Cortlandt Park and Pelham Bay Park will give you a good workout.
Arthur Ave, the Bronx, set up for outdoor dining
5. Eat yourself silly on Arthur Avenue, a block or two of the finest mostly Italian eating in the city (with all due respect to Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn).
At one time, it was said that one in four Americans could trace a family member to Brooklyn. It was also literally the 4th largest city in the USA. It was a city when it was incorporated into NYC.
1. Want to hang with the locals? Go to Coney Island. Even in the winter time, the original Nathan's is worth the trip (featuring hot dogs, seafood, fries and more). A throwback to the old amusement park, with a modern twist, a day can include the New York Aquarium and the minor league team the Brooklyn Cyclones, all within walking distance of each other.
Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn: walking distance to the
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Prospect Park
3. Make your way over to DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass). Despite its name, it's easier to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and then head to the left. Filled with shopping, galleries and eating, instead of taking the train back to Manhattan, you might have to walk off the calories going back over the bridge.
4. The Brooklyn Promenade (less than a mile walk along the East River between the Brooklyn Bridge towards Atlantic Avenue) has great views of Manhattan, snack trucks and a restaurant and gourmet ice cream near the bridge.
5. The new kid on the block is Domino Park, in Williamsburg. On the site of the old Domino Sugar factory, you explore 5 small acres that packs in a lot, including views of Manhattan's skyline. Be there at sunset.
1. Although we don't recommend renting a car when you visit NYC, exploring Queens is a good reason to rent one for the day. A trip to the Queens County Farm Museum, a working farm, will help you to understand how Queens was farm land way back in the day.
2. Another great place to see the sunset over Manhattan's skyline is Gantry Plaza State Park, 4-09 47th Rd. Food trucks are lined up to help you stay nourished as you get a place among tourists and locals alike.
3. The heart of Queens' tourism lies in or near the Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Check out our blog here. A full day or more, you have your choice of the Queens Zoo, the Hall of Science, CitiField, USTA tennis, the Queens Museum, or just the park itself. You won't know what to do first.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
4. Queens is considered one of the most diverse ethnic areas in the world. And the food is here also. A walk down any major street will give you more choices that you have room for. Get a local perspective: Broadway between 21st and 41st Streets (with the Museum of the Moving Image in the area); Vernon Boulevard between 46th and 51st Avenues in Long Island City (and the MOMA at PS 1 art musuem); and in Jackson Heights near Roosevelt Avenue and 74th Street.
5. It took years, but finally the beaches of Queens are restored enough to reopen. There is still work going on, but head out to Jacob Riis Park. There is a family area as well as sections for those more daring. It's a great alternative to Coney Island and Rockaway Beach, which can be more crowded.
Travel to NYC Series
Part 1: How to Get Here
Part 2: How to Choose a Hotel
Part 3: Arriving in NYC
Part 4: How to Get Around NYC
Part 5: What to Do in NYC
How to Travel Series
Part 1: Plan Your Own Trip
Part 2: Resources to Use
Part 3: Travel With Electronics
Part 4: Renting a Car
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